Brands are always looking for new ways to connect with their target audiences, and sponsored content is becoming an increasingly popular addition to the marketing mix. Content partnerships with publishers allow brands to gain readers’ attention and trust by providing something of value – either information or entertainment – in a credible context.
But even the best content won’t perform if it’s placed in the wrong medium. So how do you determine which outlet is right for your content? Assuming the publication offers a package that matches your budget, here are four questions to ask yourself:
Does your content fit with the publication’s focus and style? While sponsored articles must be clearly marked as such to avoid misleading readers, the content should still appear native and fit in with the reader’s overall experience and expectations. Whether your piece is a lighthearted listicle, an infographic-heavy explainer or an in-depth think piece, you’ll want to pick an outlet where it will seem at home. The content should feel organic and brand right when coming from the publication under consideration.
Does the publication reach your target audience? Dig into the publication’s audience data to ensure that the audience aligns with your brand’s target, both demographically and psychographically. Demographics (age, gender, family composition, household income, geographic location, etc.) tell who the audience members are, while psychographics (values, concerns, interests, lifestyle, etc.) explain what motivates them. The more data you have about the publication’s audience, the better you’ll be able to determine whether you have a story to tell that will be of interest to these individuals – and that will get them to click, listen or watch.
Does the collaboration align with your campaign goals? Consider the purpose of the overall communication campaign. Is it creating brand awareness, generating leads, driving traffic to your own media channels or establishing thought leadership, for example? The publication, content format, distribution strategy and timing will all need to support those goals.
For investment firms looking to sell their expertise, a successful pitch ultimately boils down to the numbers: whoever can offer the best performance at the lowest price should, in theory, win the business. Of course, in practice, it does not always happen this way – for a variety of reasons. One area where some buy-side firms tend to slip up (especially those involved in complex, quantitative-driven strategies, aka “quants”) is failing to have a cohesive, credible story behind the numbers. No matter how sophisticated the underlying models and methodologies, no matter how impressive the technology or how rapid the calculations, clients are, above all else, investing in a story. If the story doesn’t resonate, they will put their money elsewhere. From a marketing perspective, here are three lessons that can be applied in telling a firm’s stories.
The Power of Personality
As in any sales effort, personality counts for a lot. People want to know the who behind the product, sophisticated as it may be. An investment firm selling highly technical, quantitative expertise should incorporate meaningful messaging about the firm and its people (beyond a numerical performance record) into its marketing efforts. For example, is there a compelling narrative behind the firm’s origins? Does the founder or fund manager have an interesting career trajectory, skill set or driving passion that could relate back to the types of products the firm offers? These are the kinds of narratives that can be woven into sales messaging and reinforced by external PR efforts such as CEO/manager profiles and/or stories about the firm placed in top-tier financial media. Executive visibility initiatives, which might include securing speaking opportunities at major industry conferences and events, are another way quantitative firms can put a human face on their strategies, which may help boost both leads and sales.
Don’t Oversell the Tech
Related to the need to humanize the sales process, quant shops also tend to rely too heavily on technological superiority as their main point of differentiation. When everyone is affirming that theirs is the fastest, cheapest and most assured way of achieving performance, the message loses some of its punch. This is especially true for tech-driven strategies, which can be exceedingly difficult to communicate and even more difficult to understand. That’s not to say firms should not tout their innovation; they should. It must be clear, however, how the technology fits into the bigger performance picture. In other words, the tech story, if there is one, should be strong enough to pass the “so what?” test. Achieving meaningful visibility for a firm’s product/tech story can be a helpful component of a broader PR program.
One of the most key points Qualman brought up was benchmarking. Data means nothing without context. Compare the data to internal (month over month) to external (industry). Go from the offense of reacting to what your competitors do to using data for defense to start leading the industry. Don’t be ahead of the market; be ahead of your competition. In order to do that, you need to know what your competition is up to.